Harbaugh: Hunter has chance for 'big year'

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Harbaugh: Hunter has chance for 'big year'

SANTA CLARA -- Kendall Hunter showed last season with a 4.2 yards-per-carry average that he can rush in the NFL. But there's more to being an NFL running back than picking up yards, and as offensive coordinator Greg Roman explained, Hunter is adapting nicely.

Hes really starting to understand all the different things that go into playing running back in this league," Roman said. "Which is more than carrying the ball. Its pass-protection, route-running, catching the ball, ball security and the special teams aspect of things as well.

Hunter seems to have a beat on the carrying-the-ball portion of the job. He appeared in all 16 games as a rookie, rushing for 473 yards and two touchdowns. And he's shown significant burst to the outside this camp, breaking off a number of large runs.

Pass-protection detail would seem to cause more problems for the under-sized back.

Hunter slipped to the fourth round of the 2011 NFL Draft in part because of his small stature, but as the smallest player on the roster at five-foot-seven and 199-pounds, he's making his presence felt in his second NFL training camp.

I feel like I have an advantage over big guys because I can get under them and stay low," Hunter said. "Especially when they come between the linemen and they cant see me."

Hunter is in a great place to sharpen his blocking skills. Blitz pick-up is a point of pride for starting running back Frank Gore. The five-foot-nine, 217-pound back regularly gives up six inches and 50 pounds to the linebackers he turns away in pass-protection drills.

The soft-spoken Hunter is taking notes. He watched as much of Gore's film as he did his own this offseason, and based on his coaches' comments, it's paying off.

The first thing that comes into my mind when I hear Kendall Hunters name is, Football player, Roman said. He loves football. He loves to get out there and compete. He always gives his maximum effort."

"I think just his instincts, his vision, both have improved," head coach Jim Harbaugh said. "It just seems the feel, the experience is there and in tremendous shape, very strong, running with a lot of confidence."

Ive never seen Kendall Hunter have a bad day or a bad snap where he wasnt totally tuned into football," Roman added. "Kendalls becoming more of a well-rounded football player. Were really glad we have him. He gets better every day.

Hunter, who is also listed as the team's No. 2 kick returner behind Ted Ginn, will need to continue to get better to retain the back-up running back role. The 49ers brought in eight-year NFL veteran Brandon Jacobs and drafted Oregon standout LaMichael James this offseason, creating a skilled and crowded backfield.

The 49ers will likely limit the number of preseason snaps for eight-year veteran Gore, and expect them to give extended second-half playing time to second-round draft pick James.

That leaves plenty of time for Hunter to prove the raving words of the coaching staff will translate into on-field production.

It remains to be seen how the four talented backs will split time in the regular season, but based on the praise from his coaching staff, Hunter will be a big piece of the 49ers' 2012 campaign.

As Harbaugh put it, "I think he really has a chance to have a big year."

Report: Chip Kelly interviews for Jags' OC job

Report: Chip Kelly interviews for Jags' OC job

Former 49ers coach Chip Kelly, who was fired hours after the club’s 2-14 season, is reportedly interviewing Monday to become the Jacksonville Jaguars’ offensive coordinator.

Kelly is interviewing with Jaguars new head coach Doug Marrone, reports radio station 1010 XL in Jacksonville.

Kelly told CSNBayArea.com recently he would take his time to determine his next career move. Kelly interviewed for the Jaguars’ head-coaching job, ESPN reported over the weekend.

“I’m not going to close the door on any opportunity, but I have to be very smart in what I do next,” Kelly said two days after his firing. “I don’t have to take anything, but I wouldn’t rule anything out. I need to make sure that I’m in the right situation.

“I don’t know what the future holds. I’ll do my due diligence. I’m not going to coach just to coach.”

The 49ers fired Kelly with three years, $18 million remaining in his contract. The 49ers hired Kelly just two weeks after the Philadelphia Eagles fired him. Kelly went 26-21 with the Eagles after leaving his successful program with the Oregon Ducks after the 2012 season.

Pats OC McDaniels 'impressed' by York, Marathe

Pats OC McDaniels 'impressed' by York, Marathe

New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels announced Monday morning he has pulled his name from consideration for the 49ers’ head-coaching job.

McDaniels interviewed with 49ers executives Jed York and Paraag Marathe on Saturday, Jan. 7, while the Patriots were on the bye week as the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs. McDaniels indicated he also met with Brian Hampton, the 49ers’ director of football administration and analytics.

"I was really impressed with Jed York and Paraag and Brian, and people that came for the 49ers organization,” McDaniels said in a conference call with reporters who cover the Patriots.

“They did a great job with their presentation,” McDaniels added. “Again, (I’m) humbled to be included in that process. At this time, it's just best for my family and myself to remain here in New England, and focus on this year's playoffs and finish out the year however it turns out."

McDaniels said his main focus would be on helping prepare the Patriots to face the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday in the AFC Championship game.

McDaniels, 40, was viewed as one of the hot head-coaching candidates, along with Atlanta offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, this offseasons. He has served the past five seasons as New England’s offensive coordinator under Bill Belichick.

Shanahan becomes the leading candidate for the 49ers’ job. The 49ers interviewed Seattle offensive line/assistant head coach Tom Cable on Sunday. Shanahan and Cable are the only known remaining candidates for the job to replace Chip Kelly, who was hired after a 2-14 season.

McDaniels became Denver’s head coach in 2009. He was fired after 12 games in 2010 after his teams compiled an 11-17 record. He returned to the Patriots in 2012 and has served as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach on Bill Belichick’s staff.

McDaniels, who also interviewed with the 49ers last year, also had interviews on Jan. 7 with Jacksonville and the Los Angeles Rams. Jacksonville hired Doug Marrone, while the Rams hired Sean McVay.

“I've always said how grateful I am for this opportunity to work here for Mr. Kraft his family and coach under Bill with a lot of great guys on our staff and have the privilege to work with the players we get to work with each day," McDaniels said. "It's a great opportunity. Very thankful to be here and very much looking forward to this week against Pittsburgh."